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Brief Published: 1 Feb 2016

Skinterface: Feeling Virtual Reality


Design students have created a suit that allows the wearer to feel the transition from the physical world into a virtual-reality (VR) environment. On display at the Royal College of Art's School of Design Work-in-Progress Show in London last week, Skinterface also enables physical interactions with computer-simulated objects, for a more immersive VR experience.

The suit can be monitored and tracked in 3D space, and incorporates small actuators that emit subtle sensations to translate virtual contact into a physical feeling. This removes the conceptual barrier between the virtual and actual, and lets the wearer gain a sense of active participation, rather than observation.

"Skin is our interface for sensation in real life. If you can really connect with skin, it becomes possible to engage more in the VR space," Andre McQueen, one of the designers working on the project, told Stylus.

Once the threshold from real into virtual is crossed, the suit produces a range of sensations according to the interaction, and can be used to feel negative space. The designers are looking to develop a sensory language for VR by creating a library of sensations, from which the wearer feels different combinations in different scenarios.

Given its ability to facilitate two-way physical connection with people and objects in the virtual world, the suit's potential applications might include entertainment, communication or simulated prototyping.

For more on how tech is enhancing and augmenting consumers' experience of the real world, see Digital Worlds Update: The Consumer of 2030 and Beyond Wearables.